Teens Need More Exercise

Although the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of exercise are clear, a new study proves that today’s teens are getting far less than they need.

Using GPS tracking devices and accelerometers, researchers were able to measure the activity levels and surroundings of 549 adolescents ages 12-16. They found that at school teens are active 23 minutes per day—which is only 4.8% of their school day. Yet this 23 minutes represents more than half of the 39.4 minutes they are active every day.

Bottom line: Less than 10% of teens are getting the 60 minutes of physical activity daily that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends.

The study also found that teens are most active when in the vicinity of their schools and homes, but not when they are inside their schools and homes. Another important finding is that teen girls are generally less active than teen boys. Considering girls’ risk of anxiety, depression, and eating disorders, it is important that we encourage all teens to remain active during adolescence. Researchers conclude that teens should spend more time in the vicinity of their schools and homes. But in this day and age, how realistic is that suggestion?

First, many parents are uncomfortable with teens hanging out outside. Second, the study didn’t mention that teens are indoors because they are tending to mounting nightly homework assignments and following intense schedules for structured extracurricular commitments—the result of prevailing pressures to excel academically and build standout college resumes. The problem isn’t just missing out on the many benefits of physical activity, though; teens also aren’t learning how to maintain balance in their lives, which is what really contributes to good mental and physical health as well as success in college and beyond.

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